Professor and Graduate Students Conduct Assistive Technology Workshops in India

Professor and Graduate Students Conduct Assistive Technology Workshops in India

Monday, February 10, 2014

For two weeks in December, the UNH Institute on Disability's Therese Willkomm, along with occupational therapy graduate students Emily Hames and Vanessa Tocco, traveled to India to promote the continued development and use of low-budget assistive technology for people with disabilities. Faculty members at the Padmasri Dr. B. V. Raju Institute of Technology (BVRIT) in Narsapur invited Willkomm to visit with the hopes of providing students with a hands-on approach to assistive technology.

During their time there the team conducted 12 hands-on assistive technology workshops to more than 1,000 students and faculty members at three different colleges where participants were introduced to assistive technology solutions and then challenged to design and build their own solutions. The team visited BVRIT in Hyderabad – College of Engineering for Women, BVRIT in Narsapur, and the Sri Vishnu Educational Society in Bhimavaram.

"All of our labs were very traditionally tied in to the legacy formula of a laboratory with bread boards, soldering iron, micro controllers, diodes and all those catalogued digikeys, but we lacked one important dimension of learning. Therese and her two grad students volunteered to visit India and create the new dimension, 'creativity,'" explains Vishnu Raju, chairman, Sri Vishnu Educational Society. "The visit was unprecedented, and we never really had a structured activity, as it was first of its kind."

During the course of the team's visit, students created more than 300 different assistive technology solutions using products provided by Willkomm's team along with items they found on campus. Highlights of solutions that were developed included a self-feeding system for a person without the use of their arms, a braille Rubik's cube, a cane with a vibrating motion sensor to announce objects, a floor mat with a buzzer and light to alert individuals with hearing impairments when someone arrives.

"This has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life," said Wilkomm, clinical assistant professor and director of the New Hampshire Statewide Assistive Technology Program (ATinNH). "Our hope is to produce a book of all the solutions that the students developed using materials found in India, and that this event becomes an annual event to challenge students to think outside the box."

Learn more about the Institute on Disability's work in assistive technology here.

Read Wilkomm's blog about her time in India.

The Institute on Disability at UNH was established in 1987 to provide a coherent university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. Its mission is to promote full access, equal opportunities, and participation for all persons by strengthening communities and advancing policy and systems change, promising practices, education, and research.